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Life Enriching Communities Blog

4 Functional Exercises to Improve Daily Movements

Posted by Twin Towers on September 26, 2017

By Gary Wells, Wellness Specialist at The Connection at Twin Towers


We lead busy, active lives and expect our bodies to keep up with everything we do.We are pushing, pulling, turning and twisting our bodies repeatedly throughout the day, and there’s nothing worse than straining a muscle doing something that we’ve always done. Ouch!

4 Basic Moves Made Every Day

Whether our day is one of work, fun or leisure, we rely upon four basic movements to keep us active and participating to the fullest:


  •   pressing motion
  •   pulling motion
  •   knee and hip dominant movement
  •   torso rotational movement

Functional Exercises to Prevent Injury in Daily Movement

To help strengthen and improve our ability to perform these daily movements, consider functional training exercises. These are movement-focused exercises that can be done at home, with or without equipment.


In addition to being stronger and more confident as we go through our day, we help reduce the risk of injury to ourselves.


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Strengthen Upper Body for Reaching and Pushing

A pressing motion is used when pushing yourself up out of bed, reaching and extending to put things away on a shelf or pressing yourself up from a seated to standing position.


The primary muscle groups engaged are: chest, triceps, shoulders and core. To help prevent injury in a daily movement, strengthen muscles with a modified chest press.

Modified Chest Press

modified chest press functional exerciseStarting Position: stand facing a wall, extend arms in front of you, lean forward slightly and place your palms against the wall with fingertips no higher than top of chest.

  1. On inhale, bend your elbows until your nose nearly touches the wall.
  2. On exhale, push through your palms up to starting position.
  3. Work your way up to 12-15 reps.

Gary’s Expert Tip: Proper hand placement is the key to this exercise. If the hands are placed too high, you will place tension on your shoulders. If the hands are placed too low, you will place tension on your back. The closer your feet are to the wall the easier the exercise will be.

Strong Muscles for Enhanced Shoulder Mobility

A pulling motion is used for opening doors, removing items from cabinets or performing yard work such as raking or weeding.


The primary muscle groups engaged are: back, shoulders, biceps and core. To help prevent injury in these muscles, do 12-15 repetitions of rows a few times a week.

Rows

Rows functional exerciseStarting Position: stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart, knees soft, arms fully extended in front of you, elbows slightly bent, palms are facing inward, shoulders relaxed and pressed down.


  1. On exhale with back muscles engaged, bring arms in close to body, elbows pointing backward, press shoulders down.
  2. Hold for several breaths, keeping core engaged and back straight.
  3. On inhale, reverse the motion back to the starting position.
  4. Work your way up to 12-15 repetitions.

Gary’s Expert Tip: This exercise can be performed from a seated position. Use a chair without arms and keep core stable and back straight. Dumbbells may be added to increase resistance.

Build Strength for Bending and Stepping

Knee and hip dominant movements are used when picking things up off the ground, walking up the stairs, squatting, sitting down or tying shoes.


The primary muscle groups engaged are: gluteal, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and core. Chair exercises can strengthen your body to help prevent injury as you perform movements throughout the day.

Chair Stands

Chair stands functional exerciseStarting Position: stand in front of an armless chair, feet shoulder-width apart, knees soft, back straight, arms at sides with palms facing in.

  1. On exhale bend at hips to sit back into chair, extending arms out in front of you as you fold hips - when you make contact with chair, arms will be fully extended straight out in front of you.
  2. Hold for several breaths, keeping core engaged and back straight.
  3. Take a deep breath in and exhale your body back to start position.
  4. Work your way up to 8-12 repetitions.

Gary’s Expert Tip: Many people of all ages suffer injuries from improper technique while performing knee and hip dominant movements, so if you have time for only one exercise a day this would be my recommendation. Dumbbells may be added to increase resistance.

Increase Core Stability for Twisting and Turning

Torso rotational movements are used anytime you reach across your body.


The primary muscle groups engaged: core, oblique, gluteal, core. Do the torso twist to help avoid an injury when reaching.

Torso Twist

Torso twist functional exerciseStarting Position: stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, back straight, press shoulders down, engage core, arms bent, elbows out, fingertips touching.


  1. On exhale rotate torso to right, keep back straight, core engaged and arms up.
  2. On inhale rotate torso back to center.
  3. On exhale rotate torso to left, keep back straight, core engaged and arms up
  4. On inhale rotate torso back to center.
  5. Work your way up to 5-6 repetitions each direction.   

Gary’s Expert Tip: This exercise can be performed from a seated position. Use a chair without arms and keep core stable and back straight. Dumbbells or a medicine ball may be added to increase resistance.

Wellness specialists like Gary at The Connection at Twin Towers are expertly trained to develop workout routines and healthy living plans for those age 55+.  For more information on The Connection or Twin Towers, contact Twin Towers online or give us a call at 513-853-2000.

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Topics: Senior Health and Fitness

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